Taste and See that the Lord is Good

The Gospel reading for today invites us to contemplate the mysterious character of God, and His divinely instituted environment for our salvation, the Holy Tradition. It is an invitation to experience an even more complete expression of joy in our everyday life by embracing the challenge to continue (persevere in) living the resurrected life of Christ Jesus.christ chalice

John 14.7-14
[7] If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.”
[8] Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.”
[9] Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, `Show us the Father’?
[10] Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
[11] Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.
[12] “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.
[13] Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son;
[14] if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.

God is unseeable and unapproachable

The Scriptures tells us that God is “the invisible God” (Colossians 1.15). “No man has God at any time” (John 1.18). Indeed, He is the One Whom “no man has seen nor can see”(1 Timothy 6.16).

He “dwells in unapproachable light.”(1 Timothy 6.16)

And yet, God is not only seeable but commands men and women to approach Him and touch Him!!

“No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” (John 1.18)

“All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11.27-28)

“…we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father’ (John 1.14). ‘he who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14.9).

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us — that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete.” (1 John 1.1-4)

“And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.” (Luke 24.38-43)

The saving paradigm is characterized by mystery. Mystery “includes” in a unique way. It is uncompromisingly inclusive of what, in any other environment, would see as an “either or.” It articulates a way of living a “both and” life without becoming vague and indecisive. Just the opposite. When we maintain a need to solve what we perceive as a problem of “either or,” we are, many times, opting out of God’s mysterious will and opting in for a knowable will. Indeed, the will of God, like God, is both knowable and unknowable at the same time. Yikes…

In the “either or” paradigm God as unseen and unapproachable is inherently inconsistent or contradictory to God as seeable and approachable and touchable. The perceived need is to relate to God as one of these and then the other. Back and forth. It is a life of pendulum swings between extremes. In contrast, the matrix of the Kingdom is one of union. In order to encounter God as God in spirit and truth, we cannot do so in an “either or” mode but in a “both and” mode. The apostles did not create a “both and” environment in order to relate to God as unseen and seen, unapproachable and approachable. Rather, they received a matrix that was divinely instituted. Indeed, they received the environment that was/is the very life of God Himself. The boldness and effectiveness of the ministry of the apostles issued forth from the fertile environment which is the Trinitarian/Incarnational life of God. In Him they lived and moved and ministered. As disciples of the risen Christ Jesus, we are not recipients of a message that proclaims a repackaging of our paradigm. Hope and life are not the fruit such a repackaging or reinventing of the old. The Gospel is a message of hope because it offers a completely new life. That new life is the source of hope to those who have no more hope.

We are invited by Jesus, just like the first disciples, to die to one matrix of life and be born to another no matter where we find it – in the world, inside ourselves, or even within the church. Unless we do, to take the subtlety of the mystery even deeper, we will not be able to “see the kingdom of God” let alone “enter the kingdom of God.”

John 3.1-10
[1] Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicode’mus, a ruler of the Jews.
[2] This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.”
[3] Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
[4] Nicode’mus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
[5] Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
[6] That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
[7] Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be born anew.’
[8] The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.”
[9] Nicode’mus said to him, “How can this be?”
[10] Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this?

It is this life that is offered in and through the Divine Liturgy. The Liturgy is the Mystery of God. It portrays, offers, and is the very experience of the Life of God. The Divine Liturgy is faithful to the radical command of Jesus to not just lay eyes on Him but eat and drink Him!! Because of this we hear:

“It is proper and right to sing to You, bless You, praise You, thank You and worship You in all places of Your dominion; for You are God ineffable, beyond comprehension, invisible, beyond understanding, existing forever and always the same; You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit.”

“No one bound by worldly desires and pleasures is worthy to approach, draw near or minister to You, the King of glory. To serve You is great and awesome even for the heavenly powers. But because of Your ineffable and immeasurable love for us, You became man without alteration or change… Therefore, I implore You, look upon me, Your sinful and unworthy servant, and cleanse my soul and heart from evil consciousness…”

In the fear of God and with faith draw near. Receive the Body of Christ; taste the fountain of immortality. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (c.130-c.208), Bishop, theologian and martyr, articulates the Mystery in this way:

“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5.8). True, since the Father cannot be grasped, “no man can see God and live” (Ex 33.20) in his majesty and inexpressible glory. But in his love, his goodness to us and almighty power, he does go so far as to give to those who love him the privilege of seeing God…, for “what is impossible to man is possible to God” (Lk 18.27). Of himself man will not see God; but God, if he wishes, will be seen by men, by those he wants, when he wants and as he wants, for God can do all things. In former times he was seen according to prophecy thanks to the Spirit, then he was seen according to adoption thanks to the Son, and he will be seen in the Kingdom of heaven according to his fatherhood. For the Spirit makes us ready beforehand for the Son of God; the Son leads us to the Father; and the Father gives us an immortal nature and the eternal life that follows from this sight of God for all who see it.

For those who see the light are in the light and share in its splendor, and so those who see God are in God and share in his splendor. And God’s splendor gives life: therefore, those who see God share in his life. Against the Heresies 4, 20, 4-5 ; SC 100

Borrowing from our cultural narrative that seems to articulate a need to take a serious look at our presuppositions, Morpheus says to Neo, “Welcome to the desert of the real…”

Fr. Thomas

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